Could Longhorn Be DOA?

by Preston Gralla

There was some disturbing news for Microsoft this week: A study found that less than 25% of corporate PCs running XP have upgraded to SP2. This, even though SP2 is a significant security upgrade, and offers a better wireless client than pre-SP2 XP.

The study didn't question why the adoption rate is so low, but it's most likely because of compatibility issues with custom-built applications. The Windows Firewall is turned on by default in SP2, and it has caused numerous problems with custom apps, as well as some off-the-shelf ones.

That news is bad enough. Worse, though, is that Microsoft can likely expect a much-lower adoption rate for Longhorn, when it's released, possibly some time next year. After all, from XP to XP2 is an upgrade of the same operating system. From XP to Longhorn is an upgrade to an entirely new operating system, with different plumbing underneath. Expect compatibility issues to be severe, and so companies may well stay away in droves.

This will have a much more serious impact on Microsoft than the upgrade to SP2. Microsoft received no revenue from the upgrade to SP2. It's likely hoping for a massive revenue boost from Longhorn. If the SP2 upgrade is any indication, it won't get it.

Could this mean Longhorn will be dead on arrival? For consumers, the answer is no -- when you buy a new PC off the shelf, you won't have a choice of operating systems, and so you'll get Longhorn. But for enterprises, the answer may well be that Longhorn is DOA. And that means potentially big financial problems for Microsoft.

Do you think Longhorn may be DOA? Let me know.


2005-04-06 00:51:44
no news here
Adoption rate for OS service packs and updates has always been low.
The massive anti-SP2 rants from some sources don't help.
In fact when SP1 was released the adoption rate was also very low for a long time.

in 2003 I worked at a company who were still using NT4 SP3, never having upgraded to even SPs for that beyond SP3 for whatever reason...
In 2001 I encountered a customer who were investigating whether to upgrade their infrastructure TO NT4 SP3 (from un unpatched NT 3.51), their policy was to never use anything that hadn't been superceded by at least one major release AND one service pack.

Back to XP:
When SP1 was released a lot of people on gaming forums screamed bloody murder and advised everyone who would listen that SP1 should not be installed. The reason: it might give a few percent drop in gaming performance.
Those people were often IT people working as sys admins and in other responsible positions. If they hold such opinions what do you think they do on the job?
When SP2 was released those same people told everyone to never install SP2 because Microsoft is evil and SP2 didn't fix anything (but only prevented applications from Microsoft competitors from working to boost Microsoft sales).
In fact I've encountered only 1 application that worked under SP1 which had a small flaw under SP2 and that was a beta of our own application. This was rather quickly fixed by removing a single line of code which was put in to reduce memory use slightly (totally unneeded in this case, it led to a few bytes less memory use for the penalty of a few CPU cycles).

Those same people rather quickly after their SP1 rants came back crying foul about how poor XP is when they got hit time and again by exploits which had been prevented by SP1 (many of them unknown until SP1 was released).
Those same people are now crying foul again because of exploits fixed in SP2...

Yet those same people are the ones causing the low adaptation of SP2 in corporate environments.

Lucky for Microsoft they're not the people deciding on an upgrade to Longhorn. That is done at a higher management level by people who want to have the latest and greatest :)

2005-04-06 02:55:14
Low adoption rates are nothing new
Windows XP itself took a while to gain traction, most organisations don't even consider an upgrade untill after the product is out, and only then begin to even think about it. Scheduling a test cycle, then carrying that through and finaly approving and performing the upgrade can easily take 12 to 18 months even for companies that fully intend to upgrade from the start, but just want to be thorough and aren't in a hurry.

Service packs are usuay an easier upgrade proposition, but a lot of people suffered a lot of pan from PS2, my company included. We were supplying support for a customer who'd bought their PCs and software through us, and when Windows Update started putting SP2 on them the machines just stopped working - stone dead. Only 1 or 2 of the half dozen machines taht upgrared before we switched off automatic updates were recoverable, the rest had to be re-installed from scratch. This may well have been due to the way the manufacturer had set up the factory installs of XP, but it wasn't a nice experience.

2005-04-06 06:05:41
It depends on the upgrade cycle

I think it will be entirely dependent on when it falls during the hardware upgrade cycle. If Longhorn is out for 6 months and a company goes to upgrade, they'll get it just because it will be the only thing available.

Of course, if the latest upgrade happens before Longhorn is released, a company is going to grudgingly buy XP saying "Isn't this what we had LAST time we 'upgraded'?"

Some organizations only upgrade every 5 years and they will probably miss Longhorn because they'll be upgrading the next year... after waiting until after y2k to upgrade last time.

Some organizations do 3 year cycles. This is where Microsoft is probably going to score big.

Some organizations - like the one I'm currently at - have 18 month cycles. Microsoft would stand a chance here except that we're entirely a Linux/Mac house on the desktop. Windows is only used on the laptops...

2005-04-06 08:08:17
Once the acne clears up....
Actually, for Corporate customers, it might not matter very much. With about 400 computers running Windows and Office on our campus, we found it extremely cost effective to join the Microsoft Corporate Licensing program. In other words, we pay Microsoft a certain fee every year and we get licenses to every version of Windows from 95 up as well as for Office (and many other MS products). I don't really know how many companies do this, but if you have a considerable number of computers, it only makes sense.

Most IT organizations are probably hesitant to use a Microsoft product within a few months to a year of its release. We all remember the horror days of 95's original release. Well, I don't. We didn't upgrade from 3.1 until early '98, but I heard the stories. I imagine that once they're sure that Longhorn has gotten past the awkward adolescent stage that I'm sure they'll release it in, it'll start being adopted on any new computers.